There are many traditions associated with Chinese New Year. My most distinct memory from childhood is, of course, receiving red envelopes full of money. We always looked forward to that, and it was always fun to go shopping afterwards. Also, you're supposed to wear new clothes on Chinese New Year, which is also pretty fun.
All those things aside, of course, is the FOOD! There's also plenty of feasting on all sorts of traditional dishes. One of my favorite classic New Years dish is the Lion's Head Casserole. Succulent and flavorful pork patties are stewed for an hour with napa cabbage, resulting in a rich, flavorful dish brimming with the sweetness of napa and the savory goodness of pork.
1 teaspoon scallions (minced)
1 teaspoon ginger (minced)
sesame oil (a glug)
black pepper (a dash)
¾ teaspoon rice wine
¾ tsp salt
4 T water
½ T corn starch
1 big head of napa ( ~ 3 lbs)
1 T soy sauce
1 T salt
*recipe adapted from the book Chinese Cuisine by Huang Su Huei (66th printing July 2000)
Note: My mom recently told me about a cool adaptation that she does. Instead of using 1 lb of pork, she uses ½ lb of pork and mixes it with ½ lb of tofu. She then omits the water from the recipe (since the tofu has a lot of water). What results is a moist, soft patty that's healthier and just as flavorful! She has also experimented with normal cabbage instead, which also works well. Sometimes she will just wrap the meat with the cabbage, sort of like making cabbage rolls.
Mix together the egg, scallions, ginger, sesame oil, black pepper, rice wine, salt, water, and corn starch.
Form meat patties to the size of your liking. I make them the size of small hamburger patties.
Note: the meat ball mixture is a bit loose so you might have trouble forming the patties. Try throwing a ball of meat back and forth between two hands a few times to "pack it down." Or you can aim to make smaller patties, which are easier to handle.
Coat each patty in a 1:1:1 mixture of soy sauce, water, and corn starch mixture.
Pan fry the patties in a bit of oil on medium to medium-high heat (enough to sear the outsides).
Flip after one side is browned and cook the other side. Set aside.
Set aside ~4-5 napa cabbage leaves. Chop up the remaining leaves into ~2 inch size pieces. Saute the napa in a big pot/wok over medium high heat. Add some water to make sure the veggies steam.
It should should look like this after about 5 minutes or so.
Remove the napa and use it to line the bottom of a casserole dish. I didn't have one, so I just used a large pot that I had. Lay the pork patties on top.
Note: A lot of liquid comes out of the napa after you saute it. You can add some of this liquid to the casserole if you'd like. It depends on how soupy you like your final product to be. I poured about ⅓ of the liquid in.
Remember those leaves we had put aside? Lay them on top of the meat balls. Add about 1 T soy sauce and 1 T of salt, cover the pot (important!), and let it simmer for about 1 hour.
Enjoy! (sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product!)
This post was first published on May 16, 2009. This version has updated picture.
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